If someone had said a few months back that Red Dead Online would turn things around with a single update, most people would have had good reason to be skeptical.
Though stunning to look at and host to an impressively massive world to play in, the game was a bit shallow in terms of what players could find to do.
Sure, there was always a PvP option available, and players could cause all sorts of chaos together with robberies, animal attacks and general rampages, but otherwise the game didn’t have enough to catch the wider berth of players’ interests.
However, with this past week’s update, the game has finally gained what it was missing. It’s gained the structure and content that can pull people in and keep them immersed in its world for the foreseeable future, all while capitalizing on the potential it has shown since its launch.
And it’s all thanks to the addition of Frontier Pursuits.
Acting as a collection of Specialist Roles players can adopt and level up with at anytime, Frontier Pursuits allow Red Dead Online players to role play as key archetypes of the Western mythos.
Those who like chasing down criminals and law breakers can take on the role of a Bounty Hunter, amassing a fortune while putting away their prey.
Individuals with a taste for business can become a renowned Trader, hunting animals for their pelts and selling them through their own trading company.
As for those who want to travel the world in search of valuable treasures, they can do so as a Collector, hawking their wares to and gaining new leads from a traveling mystic.
It might sound too good to be true for those who checked out Red Dead Online at launch, and these same players wouldn’t be remiss in expecting these quests to be hollow.
And yet, in execution, these Roles’ inclusion completely redefines how the game can be played. No longer are players restricted to PvP as the main means of enjoying the vast, lovingly rendered take on the West. Instead, they can approach it as an MMO, becoming the character they wish to be for as long as they want to be.
Not only that, but this new play-style option creates a ripple effect of content throughout the entire game, and utilizes most every aspect the other multiplayer modes failed to capitalize on.
Take the game’s open world. While players have always been free to explore the entirety of Red Dead Online’s map as they see fit, they’d quickly find that there was little reason to stray from the more populated areas.
Sure, they could find some animals to hunt and a few opportunities for multiplayer shenanigans in the wilderness, but otherwise the only viable areas of play were the towns and cities where multiplayer matches occur.
With the Frontier Pursuits though, this is no longer the case. Each class stands to gain something from exploring the entirety of the world, and more often than not, the Specialist Roles have quests that occur off the beaten path.
A remote forest could house a dangerous criminal, hiding out from the law by distancing themselves from civilization; the frigid mountain ranges to the north could be home to animals with valuable pelts, capable of raising a company’s vale in no time flat; and an abandoned farm to the southwest could house a stash of treasures, long forgotten but all the more valuable.
It’s a simple fix to the problem, but one that still works phenomenally well and fixes the problem of limited player engagement almost entirely.
This improvement, however, pales in comparison to what groups of players have gained from this new content.
Since its launch, one of Red Dead Online’s saving graces has been its potential for shared experiences and stories among players.
Even with its sparse content, an unforgettable night could still be had from taking a wagon to the top of a mountain for a group-ride back down, staging a last-stand against the law in the Saint Denis Saloon, or fleeing from an angry bear in the wild.
While this still holds true, it’s only been improved upon with the addition of Frontier Pursuits. In addition to the usual chaos they can get up to, players can now track down a bounty as a posse of Bounty Hunters, work together to bring a large shipment to their joint trading company, or engage in a days-long treasure hunt whenever and however they see fit.
They can create new stories and experiences to share with one another, and while they may still need to make their own fun at certain points, it’s no longer a requirement like it was in past Red Dead Online play sessions.
Now, this isn’t to say the addition of Frontier Pursuits solves all of Red Dead Online’s problems. Like with PvP, each Specialist Role’s quests come from a specific character, forcing players to travel back to certain points on the map regularly.
Likewise, there are only three roles currently available through the Frontier Pursuits right now, and while they’re only the first Specialist Roles to be introduced through the feature, there’s not much for players to do but wait if they don’t like the current roles.
All the same though, the inclusion of Frontier Pursuits is exactly what Red Dead Online needed. It finally utilizes the untapped potential the game has been swimming in since launch, and gives players a damn good reason to lose themselves in the final days of the West all over again.